Lin embraced in a New York minute
The Super Bowl-winning New York Giants thought they’d be the toast of the town for weeks.
Carmelo Anthony had to be thinking Knicks fans would be counting down the days until his return.
The Rangers figured if anyone was going to pay attention to the NHL, it would be during these dog days of Februrary when the Westminster Dog Show is the biggest "sporting event" in the city.
And the Yankees had to be checking that "countdown to pitchers and catchers" graphic and know they would dominate the back pages of the tabloids before the month was over.
But then Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni looked down the Knicks bench one cold Saturday night in early February and thought, "What the hell?"
"Lin! Into the game."
The city hasn’t been the same since.
While the rest of the country is now catching onto the Legend of Jeremy Lin, they have no idea what kind of impact the Harvard alum has had on a city that thinks it has seen it all.
But know this: When New York City falls, it falls hard. And this time, the city is infatuated with a player who was a complete unknown just over a week ago.
After a lockout and as an underachieving roster struggled, the Knicks were quickly becoming an afterthought in New York City.
Now, fans are scooping up tickets on the secondary market even while sellers hoard them for themselves.
According to ticket search engine FanSnap, the average price for tomorrow’s Kings-Knicks tilt at Madison Square Garden was $120 on Feb. 4, when Lin began his ascent against the New Jersey Nets.
As of yesterday, they were up 55 percent to $186. There were 9,481 tickets to that game available nine days ago. Now, just 2,156 remained. FanSnap GM Mike Janes pointed out the decrease in quantity is due to rapid sales and fans taking their tickets off the market to use for themselves.
Some diehards who can’t afford the soaring fees can’t even watch Lin’s magic unfold. Time Warner Cable subscribers have been without Knicks broadcaster MSG for weeks — the network and cable giant have been locked in a fight over rate increases.
That left 1.1 million households without MSG since Jan. 1, forcing subscribers to gather around their radio or visit their local watering hole.
“We did have an increase,” said Pat Hughes, the owner of Lansdowne Road, a bar in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. “Basketball never attracted people to this sports bar. It’s a combination of the Lin sensation and not being able to watch [at home].”
Yet the Lin effect is so powerful, MSG still gets a boost.
According to USA Today, ratings in households that do get the network are up 70 percent since Feb. 6. And last Saturday’s Knicks victory over the Timberwolves had the highest local rating since Anthony’s Broadway debut last season.
The city’s two tabloids have a daily duel to out-Lin each other with back pages filled with word plays on Lin’s name — “Lincredible,” “Just Lin, Baby” — are just a couple. Everyone is searching for Lin details, and photos of the couch he slept while staying at a teammate’s house were published everywhere on Monday. (Yes, even here at The Daily).
While there are plenty of Anthony jerseys available at the NBA Store in midtown Manhattan, good luck finding Lin merchandise. An employee estimated 15 out of every 20 calls she received were Lin requests.
She tells them they sold out of Lin jerseys and shirts by last Sunday after receiving a shipment on Friday, which came right before Lin dismantled Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Though Lin has just five incredible games under his belt, it’s already certain New York has never gotten this excited about someone this unknown just a week ago.
“I can’t remember somebody coming to New York with that kind of impact from nowhere,” said former New York Times columnist George Vecsey, who grew up in Queens and covered the city’s sports scene for decades.
But he points out the hype itself isn’t unprecedented. It’s the same love for Joe Namath when he led the Jets to an improbable Super Bowl win. It’s similar excitement over Lenny Dykstra, Dwight Gooden and the 1986 Mets.
But none of those stars came this far from obscurity.
Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz, like Lin, is another undrafted zero-to-hero. But the salsa dancer simply added a new weapon to a contender.
All Lin did was pick up a mediocre team failing to live up to expectations and for now has saved the job of embattled head coach Mike D’Antoni. In a bizarre twist, Knicks fans are actually worried about the impending return of Amar’e Stoudemire and Anthony to the lineup.
Just in the nick of time, Anthony is already causing a stir. He told reporters yesterday, “He’s Rudy, that’s our Rudy,” referring to the Notre Dame football walk-on and much-beloved film, though there’s some question whether he meant that negatively.
Even with the Knicks so-called stars coming back, every New Yorker is jumping on the bandwagon. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg had to publicly acknowledge the city’s new sensation.
“Congrats to @JLin7 on being named @NBA Player of the Week. Looking forward to more #LinSanity,” his Twitter account read yesterday.